NewsPrice of Paradise


Deadline approaching to apply for rent help in Pasco County

H.E.A.R.T. 2.0 program ready to help some renters pay both rent and utility bills
POP housing apartments rent help.png
Posted at 6:46 AM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 07:33:45-05

PORT RICHEY, Fla. — As rent prices climb, Marcy Esbjerg said the need for more affordable housing options in Paso County is significant.

“Every time I think it can’t get any worse, it gets worse,” said Esbjerg. “The median sales price has gone up, the amount of vacancies for rentals is down to almost nothing, and everybody has experienced a significant increase in their rent.”

Esbjerg, the Director of Community Development for Pasco County, is ready to help some of those renters.

A county program called Helping with Emergency Assistance Relief for Tenants — or H.E.A.R.T. — is starting its second phase. The program, funded by stimulus dollars the county received from the federal American Rescue Plan, assists eligible county residents with funds to help pay rent and utility bills.

The first phase of H.E.A.R.T. helped 2,300 people. Esbjerg said the county is now ready to help thousands more.

“We help people who are less than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI),” Esbjerg explained.

For reference, the 80% AMI for a household of four people in Pasco County is $59,050 and $41,350 for a household of one. Applicants must be residents of Pasco County. They also must have been “economically impacted” by COVID-19, which Esbjerg said should be a very easy threshold to meet.

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Those who would like to apply for the help can do so on the county’s website at this link, which will remain open for 10-day periods following the second Monday of each month.

Additionally, those who don’t wish to apply online can instead apply through nine partnered nonprofits:

According to Esbjerg, households that earn less than 50% of the AMI and applicants who have been unemployed for 90 days or more will be prioritized.

As Tampa Bay continues to attract new residents and businesses, the impact of living in paradise comes at a cost for all of us— from the increasing cost of housing and infrastructure to utilities and insurance. ABC Action News is committed to helping you and your family make the most of your money and navigate through the Price of Paradise.